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Nathan Mullins, Natasha Rahman, Kamin Paul and Elizabeth Tuscano.UWindsor engineering students finished second in the Water Environment Association of Ontario Student Design Competition. Clockwise from lower left: Nathan Mullins, Natasha Rahman, Kamin Paul and Elizabeth Tuscano.

Students soak up experience in wastewater treatment competition

Putting textbook learning to practical application makes all the difference in preparing for a professional career, says a team of UWindsor environmental engineering students who finished second in the Water Environment Association of Ontario Student Design Competition, April 10 in Niagara Falls.

The contest is intended to promote real-world design experience for students interested in pursuing a career or education in water engineering and sciences. This year, participants were tasked with optimizing resource recovery at the Duffin Creek Water Pollution Control Plant in Pickering, Ontario.

Nathan Mullins, Kamin Paul, Natasha Rahman and Elizabeth Tuscano took on the challenge as their fourth-year capstone project. The students devised ways to remove more nitrogen and phosphorus for use as agricultural fertilizer.

They conducted a literature review, visited the site, and consulted with experts in the field to prepare detailed schematics for the proposed modifications. The process is no different from how professional engineers will approach the job, says Paul.

“We got a hint of what engineering might be like in the future,” she says. “When we studied wastewater treatment last year, it just seemed like random, abstract concepts. Now, we got a chance to apply a lot of what we learned.”

Mullins agrees, saying the project introduced the students to technical side of the discipline.

“I think we got an enhanced learning experience from it,” he says. “I certainly have a better understanding of how to apply knowledge to tackle a problem.”